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The Top Nine Reasons Why I Got the COVID-19 Vaccine

Family medicine physician Dr. John J. Russell shares why he was personally motivated to get vaccinated and how he tolerated the first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

I was officially vaccinated in December 2020, and I tolerated the vaccine well. The second dose was better than the first dose, but regardless, that juice was so worth the squeeze. The science is pretty amazing, and the development of these vaccines shows how earmarking government funding for an urgent problem can have great outcomes. Two different vaccines with 95% efficacy are more than we could have hoped for.

One hundred years ago, the average lifespan in the U.S. was around 47 years. Vaccines are a big reason for the longer lifespan we enjoy today. Here are nine more reasons I decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

So I don’t kill someone else in an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic state.

After spending the better part of the last month in the hospital and caring for many patients with COVID-19, I noticed a common theme. Most patients hospitalized with COVID could identify their “patient zero”—the person who gave them COVID—and almost all of them were infected by someone they loved. Their “patient zero” was not necessarily someone who lives with them. The person who infected them wasn’t sick when they were around them but got sick a day or two later. It’s the easiest game of medical Clue ever. I remember seeing people in April wiping down produce in the grocery store parking lot. It’s not produce; it’s people. I don’t want that on my conscience.

So I don’t develop chronic symptoms.

Of the 20+ million people in the U.S. who had COVID, many people have lingering symptoms and are referred to as “long haulers.” I have seen people younger than me develop blood clots, kidney failure, and lingering shortness of breath. A study from Northern Italy showed that 81 percent of hospitalized COVID patients still presented symptoms 60 days later. Studies have shown heart inflammation from COVID on echocardiograms. I don’t think we have any idea how many “long haulers” with chronic symptoms there are, but I predict physicians will be treating them for some time.

So I don’t die.

A common misconception is that the only people who die are people who are very sick already, and COVID is just picking off the weak and frail. I am 56, and by the age of 50, 70 percent of the U.S. population has at least one chronic illness. CDC studies propose that I am 30 times more likely to die than my children, who are in their twenties.

To unburden health care workers.

The 20 million healthcare workers in the U.S. don’t have much energy left in their collective tanks. We are getting up and taking care of people but would love to return to more mundane times. If people get vaccinated, then hopefully, there will be a return to more ordinary busy days.

Dr. John Russell celebrates receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Russell celebrating receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

To be a good citizen.

I view this as one of many things that I can do to make my community safer. Supreme Court Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Your right to swing your arm only extends as far as my nose.” I prefer this quote from Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Getting vaccinated to protect others is a small gesture with great impact.

To help the hospitality, travel, and entertainment sectors.

I have not dined inside a restaurant since the last day of February 2020. If there were a restaurant that only served the “vaccinated,” I would be there in a minute.

Qantas Airlines says in the near future, only the vaccinated will be able to fly on their international flights. Reaching herd immunity more quickly will be the greatest tonic for so many businesses.

To hug.

Hugging causes a decrease in the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Research shows that hugs decrease your blood pressure and heart rate in stressful situations. In a year of unparalleled grief, we had to forfeit this irreplaceable way to comfort each other. Given that hugging can actually increase the level of oxytocin or “feel good” chemical in your brain, connecting—again in this simple way—may be just the thing we need right now.

For emotional health.

The isolation has been so hard for so many people. I have seen people relapse back into their addictions. I think it’s so important that people can get together safely with family, go to school in person, attend in-person support groups, dine out as a group, and date. A thought to ponder is, will vaccine status be part of future dating profiles? Swipe right on getting the vaccine!

For fun!

Movies in theaters, concerts, travel, sporting events, having a drink at the bar, attending weddings, funerals, and other social events. It will be wonderful to feel safe enough to attend worship services in person. I’m sure every person has something special they would add to this list.

Dr. John J. Russell is the Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and the Director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at Abington – Jefferson Health

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COVID-19, From the Experts